Norma Rogers Ch. 04bynorthlander©
This is the fourth part of the story of Norma Rogers continuing her life during a World War, how she brought children into a world without their father, a world where she continued to perform important and hazardous duties in the face of sudden death and injury and great danger to herself and her family. As always, the story is the property of the writer and copyright 2012. The story does not describe the actions of any one person and is the invention of the author. My thanks again must go to my editor yellowperil2 for his excellent work in keeping my flights of fancy in line.
Norma Part 4
This is Patricia interjecting a little here. We were sitting in Norma's apartment and she went to a bookcase and brought over a photo album. She first pointed out several photographs that had obviously been taken outside Buckingham Palace of her, James Rogers and their parents. Then she showed the report from the Daily Mirror of their rescue of the family in the bombed building and a photograph of the building and area itself. To me, who had never seen such damage, I marveled that anyone could have survived it. The picture looked more like the ruins of Pompeii that are now being dug out of the lava. She also showed me photographs of her wedding, and while the photos were in black and white, the two brides looked enchanting and the two grooms in their dress uniforms looked so smart. It was hard to believe that it was taken during the war. Looking at Jake's grandfather in dress blues reminded me of my wedding when Jake looked so resplendent in his dress uniform with the leather cross strap and belt. It was impossible not to see the family resemblance. Then Norma continued her narrative.
The morning after our wedding, having enjoyed a night in each other's arms with no raids to disturb our bliss I awoke in Jim's arms at the Clarendon Hotel where we had spent the night. Stretching after my sleep, I felt his firm body against me. The night before I had told Jim that he was going to become a father and he was overjoyed. Much as I tried to disturb him so he would hold me and we could make love, he still slept soundly, recovering from the effort of the advanced training he had been doing. I crept out of bed, found my toilet bag, wrote Jim a quick note and took the room key from the table. I slipped out to the bathroom just along the floor from our room, and after a leisurely bath, I put my robe back on and went back to our room. Jim had ordered morning tea the night before, and it was waiting on the table when I got back. Jim was sitting in his underwear sipping his tea. I picked up mine and asked Jim when we would have to get the train to Holyhead in order to catch the boat to Ireland.
Jim grinned and told me, "We can travel with Ma and Dad; they brought a car so Ma could bring the food over."
I thought for a minute, "Oh come on, Jim, I'm not a fool, the use of private vehicles is discouraged here, and petrol is rationed for all United Kingdom subjects. How can your Mum and Dad use a private car to travel from Ireland to Bromley and back again while getting petrol if they need it?"
"Norma, what I'm going to tell you is absolutely secret. My father isn't quite the simple farmer he would have you believe he is, as you may have guessed by the number of times they travel back and forth. Though younger, he is a trusted friend of Eamon De Valera, the Taoiseach, or President if you will, of Ireland. My father favours freedom for all of Ireland, including Ulster, but by negotiation - not at the point of a gun. He feels that words can accomplish far more than threats or violence. Thanks to this war, Dev feels that, contrary to those Irishmen who feel we should ally with Germany, as a government we must remain neutral. To help preserve this neutrality, he must keep up contacts with both the Germans and with Mr. Churchill and the British Government."
"There is a lot of pressure from Germany to get a naval base in Ireland as well as an airbase. Dev is well aware that either one would be in a position to threaten all of the UK, and is also well aware of the fact that any decision by the Dial to allow such a thing would mean we would be staring at the business end of British rifles the next day. He has also seen what has happened to other countries that have allowed the German forces in. Hitler and his bullies cannot be trusted. Dad is one of Dev's emissaries to the British Government, as he has plenty of family reasons to keep him above suspicion when he visits the UK. The car is treated as diplomatic transport by both governments, so he can get fuel anywhere."
I was almost in tears. "I'm just a lowly ambulance driver, not a diplomat; all I know is that I just married the man I love and I'm carrying his baby. What does this secretive work mean to our family? Tell me!"
Jim took me in his arms, as he reassured me. "It means nothing at all. I'm still a British soldier, loyal to the Crown, and I have every intention of staying that way. I plan on living with you and our family and working in England after the war is over. Everything else is Dad's work and has nothing to do with me. If, indeed, the north and south ever become one, which I for one don't believe we will ever see, it is going to take a firm agreement between Catholics and Protestants, which might well be described as a miracle. If you feel better about it now, knowing it has nothing to do with us, let's get ready and go down to breakfast."
Feeling much better and more reassured that we would be safe, regardless of whatever John was doing, I finished dressing for breakfast downstairs.
We met Mhairi and John in the hotel dining room, and after a good breakfast on the last of the hams that Mhairi had brought, we decided to leave at 10 in the morning, which would get us to Holyhead in time for the night mail boat to Dun Loaghaire. It could carry a few cars and had cabins for sleeping if we wished. Mhairi had the hotel prepare sandwiches and cold drinks for us. There was lots of room for our clothing as Jim was leaving his uniforms at my parents while we were In Ireland. He could not travel to Ireland in a British uniform. It was the first time I had ever seen him in civvies as he normally wasn't allowed to wear them in wartime. He had to get special permission from his commander to travel to Ireland.
We went to my parent's home, and in a way I still felt sorry to be leaving my childhood home to begin a new life as Norma Rogers. All the neighbours were watching as we arrived in a car. I think they were looking for a chauffeur's uniform, but Jim's dad was driving. He said it made a change from a tractor. After dropping off Jim's uniform and equipment, giving Mum her dress back and having a quick cup of tea, we started the drive off to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey to get the ferry to Ireland. We headed across country for the first part of the trip to avoid the confusion of London. As we drove and Mhairi was talking to John, she turned to us, "We have to make an overnight in Dublin as there is a diplomatic dinner and entertainment that John and I have to attend. You are welcome to come with us, and we already have two rooms booked at the Gresham Hotel, just in case you want to join us. It is an older place, but very nice."
I just froze. "A diplomatic dinner? I don't have a dress for such an event! I packed for a farm; this is far more than a middle class girl is used to."
"Don't worry about that, you'll find that most of the people you meet are no smarter and nowhere near as brave as you, and the ones that think they are, are not of much account. Also, you and I are going shopping tomorrow, so you will have a dress to wear, believe me. John may not have given me a daughter to spend my money on but I have two daughters in law that I love"
The trip to Dun Loaghaire was just over three hours. It was amazing to travel on a fully lit ship with a huge Irish flag both on the flagpole and painted on the funnel, both lit by spotlights. We arrived at 1 in the morning, and by the time the car was unloaded and we drove to Dublin, it was around three am when we arrived at the Gresham. To see all the lights of the city was amazing after London had been blacked out for so long. Our rooms were small but very comfortable and had attached bathrooms, which I really appreciated. I really enjoyed not having to look at blackout curtains, but we were so tired that Jim and I just undressed and fell into bed, snuggling together as the room was a trifle cool.
At 9 am there was a banging on the door, and donning a robe, I opened it to find Mhairi standing there. "I might have known it," she said with a smile. "The newlyweds are still abed. John and I are just finishing getting ready for breakfast, and we will meet you in the dining room in about half an hour." Jim and I dressed quickly and headed downstairs, deciding to bathe after breakfast as we didn't have any plans for the morning, or, I didn't think we did at that time. We joined my in-laws at the table, and Mhairi started right in on us.
"At last! You've finally made it! Although, I'll make allowances for you, Norma, in your condition, but not for Jim. He should be up at dawn as he used to be. The Army must be letting him get soft!"
With a smile Jim jumped right in. "Mother, might I remind you that I didn't get to bed until after three this morning too tired even to treat my new wife as I should! Norma, you see how much respect I get! If it wasn't for the fact that I am married to you, I doubt that I would even be here. It's a real pity that Ma didn't have a daughter to dote on. I am sure that's why she dotes on you and Mary. Tell me, Ma, why have you not told us the sex of our first child yet? I'm sure you can tell!" Jim was grinning as he gave his mother just as hard a time as she gave him. "Norma, pay no attention to her she just gives us this mystery talk to make us think she is fey and all seeing."
"I haven't said anything because I'm confused, first I sense a boy, then I sense a girl, we'll see when the child arrives, but before we leave Dublin I'm taking Norma to Clery's to get some lace for baby gowns. And we just might decide to pick up a very fancy dress each to make the men's eyes pop tonight."
"They can pop all they want. It's going to be me that Norma is with, and I'll reserve all her dance card to make sure."
"You had better come with us and pick yourself a suit as well; we didn't bring anything for you as there isn't much at the farm that will fit you anymore."
"I have a suit that needs to be pressed for the occasion, so if you are away off down the street I'll go get cleaned up and have the valet service look after the suit and a shirt."
John told us that he had to go to the family lawyers for a short time, and just then the waiter brought us a breakfast spread that, after two years of war, I could hardly believe. But, thanks to the baby, I found I could hardly enjoy it!. What a time for morning sickness to start; after rushing off to the ladies room, closely followed by Mhairi, and hanging over the toilet, then washing out my mouth and sponging my face, I returned to the table thoroughly embarrassed. Mhairi told me to have tea and toast in the hope that it would stay down. Then with a smile she said, "Jim, see what you've done to the poor girl. Don't deny it; it's always the man's fault. I felt fine after that, so after going back to our room and washing, getting kisses and sympathy from the man himself, Mhairi and I went out shopping.
We just walked down O'Connell Street from the hotel to Clery's Department Store, as Mhairi told me that they would have the best selection of dresses. The smaller shops specialised in made to measure clothing and would not have a lot in stock. First Mhairi took me to the ladies' wear floor and we looked at the dresses. There were some beautiful dresses on the racks, all either made in Ireland or imported from the Unites States and Switzerland. A soft, green, yarn-dyed taffeta, knee length evening dress caught my eye; it was a semi sheath that would be beautiful to wear. Mhairi caught my eye and said, "Let's see if they have it in your size."
I patted my stomach, "Other than tonight, when will I be able to wear it? I won't be going out to dances very often for the next while."
"Ah, but it gives you a target to get the weight off after the baby is born! It's a dress that can be worn anywhere without a whole lot of accessories. Besides, surely you won't be sitting alone every night until Jim comes home; you have to have some enjoyment."
"After another six months or so, I won't exactly be alone, will I? I'll be pretty well tied to home with the baby. Anyway," I laughed, "I can't afford a dress like that, not on my wages. I can barely afford rent and food as it is - they don't pay ambulance drivers much."
She smiled. "Jim is right, I haven't a daughter to dress, just two daughters-in-law who mean as much to me as my own child would do. Let me buy your dress and under things for tonight. It would give me great pleasure to see you dressed in that dress. Anyway, you'll be getting a marriage allowance from Jim, and a bit more if he has any sense, as once he leaves Britain there won't be that many places for him to spend his money."
"Mhairi, you remind me so much of my mother, just kindness itself! You will really spoil me for going back to London and rationing. I love the dress, and I'm sure that it will make Jim's eyes pop out."
"That it will, and don't forget you need some shoes to go with it. I do wish you weren't going back, at least till the baby arrives. We have lots of room for you at the farm, and you would be getting good nourishing food."
'Mhairi, to stay would be almost like paradise, but I can't help but feel I'm still needed in London. The bombing is still going on, and I feel that I am shirking my duties just being over here for a short time. I feel that even though I am becoming a mother, I still have a lot to contribute."
"You do, I'm sure, and I would be the last one to dissuade you. It is going to take a lot from everybody to win this war; I'm glad that so many Irishmen who have no need to are volunteering for the British forces. Anyone with any sense would know that little Ireland wouldn't last 10 minutes if Britain were defeated and occupied."
By the time we had finished, we both had wonderful dresses, underwear and shoes. The dress was going to need minor alterations, and I was amazed when the assistant told us that if we would like to go up to the restaurant and have a cup of coffee or tea, the alterations would be done and the dresses brought up to us. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at the maternity department and bought a couple of skirts and smocks so I would not have to buy the utility ones available in London.
Jim went down to the bar for a Guinness while I was getting ready for the function, and by the time he got back, I had bathed, my face was made up and I was dressed in my new dress. His reaction was, "Wow! Where is the wife I know, the one in the uniform covered in dust? You look wonderful! This just shows me how beautiful you really are."
"That's just the Irish in you, full of blarney like all Irishmen." While my response was flippant my insides just melted with love for the man. "After that I should kiss you, but I would hate to mark that sparkling white collar and muss my lipstick."
"Muss away woman, it would be a badge of honour."
"I thought this function was important to your Dad and Mum?"
"It is, but it's all to do with Dad's work, not ours. Don't be surprised if he disappears for a short time."
"And we have to interrupt our honeymoon for politics!"
"Welcome to Ireland, where you are never far from politics. And speaking of politics, I notice you are wearing the OBE brooch?"
"Yes, your mother was most insistent that I wear it, and said that you should wear your lapel pin as well. I think she is really proud of both of us." He took it out of his cuff link box and put it on his lapel.
The function was being held in the hotel in one of the downstairs assembly rooms, so all we had to do was take the lift down. As we walked in, a waiter greeted us at the door, "Mr. and Mrs. Rogers and party?" He then guided us across the room to a table in a corner. We sat down with two other couples at a round table. Jim's dad excused himself and left the room through a nearby door after we introduced ourselves to the other couples. Jim ordered drinks for us; I stuck with fruit juice, while Mhairi had wine.
Folding doors partitioned two rooms, and Jim pointed out that there would be dancing in the other one later. Suddenly he whispered to me, "Oh, oh, there could be trouble." I looked at him, quite concerned, and he nodded toward the door. In the doorway there was a tall, lean man with short hair and quite a handsome face. He was with a statuesque blonde woman, almost as tall as he was. "He was my roommate at boarding school, and he is German, named Rudi Von Ansel. The last I heard, he was a pilot in the Luftwaffe. I wonder what he is doing in town. He has to be here as a noncombatant, otherwise he would be interned."
It struck me that Ireland is neutral, so Germans could come here as long as they were not combatants. I hoped that he would not come over and was quite happy when he and the blonde were seated on the opposite side of the room from us. I didn't feel very comfortable being in the same room with him, and by the looks of it, neither did Jim. At that point, John came back and the waiters started serving the soup. Jim was talking with his father, asking him what he had been doing all day, and was told that he had been putting some changes into his will. "We have new family members now, remember." That made me feel pretty warm inside; my family had expanded quite a bit in the last few days.
Dinner passed quite quickly, especially as I had now discovered a hunger that I hadn't possessed earlier. The ham was wonderful and the food was plentiful, and for a while we had a beautiful evening, especially when we were asked to go into the next room and we were treated to a display of Irish Dance. After the girls had completed their display, there was music for dancing. After several dances with Jim and with John, I felt a little tired and we sat down at the side of the room. We chatted for a few minutes, then things became tense as Jim muttered, "Oh, oh, look who is coming this way," stiffening as he did so. I looked in the same direction as Jim, and saw the man he had mentioned earlier who had been with him at school, walking towards us.
He spoke, "James Rogers?"
"Yes, Rudi, that's who I am, your old roommate in school:"
"I thought it must be you. I haven't seen you since we were at school in Salzburg."
Jim answered, but his manner was stiff and stilted. "Rudi, that was a long time ago and under much different circumstances." Jim took my arm and drew me forward, "May I introduce my wife, Norma, and my mother and father, John and Mhairi Rogers."
Rudi clicked his heels and bowed his head to us, "Good Evening! It is a pleasure to meet you all, especially after a good dinner and a sparkling dancing display. Jim you must bring me up to date on what you are doing these days."
"I'm in the Army, what about you?"
"I'm in the Luftwaffe, a Captain, but I am serving with the German Embassy here as Air Attaché. What branch of the Army are you in? I didn't realize that Ireland had an army of any size yet."
"I'm in the British Army, Royal Engineers, and a Lieutenant."
"It is fortunate that we are on neutral ground then, that we can meet without fighting."
"That might be so, though quite honestly, Rudi, I wasn't seeking this meeting, as you can likely guess I'm not too fond of the German military just now."
"I suppose not, but as we are well on our way to defeating England, I think it will soon be over and we can be as before."